Mabee Road – Fergus County



PLWA vs. Robbins DV-2012-85


The Mabee Road in Fergus County has served as a major public access route into the remote Upper Missouri River Breaks for more than 100 years. It runs north out of Roy for many miles until it intersects with the Knox Ridge Road in the heart of the Breaks country (Fergus County Map).

There is a well-documented history of long-standing public use of the Mabee Road in historical records dating back to the early 1900’s.

That historic public access ended in the fall of 2007 when a local landowner and outfitter installed a locked gate across the Mabee Road where it crosses through his property north of Roy. He posted no-trespassing signs, cutting off access to approximately 10,000 acres of public lands in the Breaks, including expansive prime elk habitat and hunting areas.

Two local hunters were denied access to their treasured public lands hunting grounds. They asked PLWA for assistance in reopening the Mabee Road. PLWA compiled substantial evidence validating the public status of the Mabee Road, and presented this evidence to the Fergus County Commissioners in January 2008. Despite our efforts, the Fergus County Attorney issued an opinion that the segment of road in dispute was private in 2010.

In November 2012, after exhausting other efforts to reopen the blocked portion of Mabee Road to public use, PLWA filed legal action in state district court to obtain a judicial ruling on the public status of the Mabee Road. That legal action culminated in a September 2018 trial held in Lewistown before District Judge Brenda Gilbert. PLWA’s attorneys and public access experts provided a thorough and convincing case that the Mabee is a public road. The testimony of local folks who used the Mabee Road over decades for hunting and other recreational pursuits greatly helped PLWA’s case.

In January 2019, attorneys for both sides provided their Proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order to Judge Gilbert. The PLWA Proposed Findings, Conclusions, and Order offer an excellent summary of the factual and legal basis of our case (The Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law linked here are not the actual order from the Court. Both parties file these documents to help the Court reach its decision.).

PLWA later submitted a recent helpful case to the court: Soup Creek Rd Court Case 2019

We are still waiting for the Court’s decision.

Thanks for all the support for protecting our public lands. Your donations make it possible for us to do this work. We couldn’t do it without you!


Mabee Road
Public Land/Water Access Association Inc. or PLWA,
is a citizen group organized and operated under the Montana nonprofit corporation act.
The Internal Revenue Service has made a determination that PLWA qualifies as a tax- exempt
organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that it is a public charity.

Articles and Information on this site represent the opinion of the writer and are not intended as legal advice.
Legal counsel may be needed in dealing with specific access situations and issues.

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